Well, it could be worse, by not by much. The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2012 season so far is not what anyone expected, especially considering our year last year. Last year showed all the signs that the Brewers as a whole had turned it around, and going into this year, the roster was pretty much the same (besides a few, but we’ve discussed this so much). So, what in the world happened? Why did the bullpen suddenly implode? What must the Brewers do to retain Zack Greinke? Why did the offense forget how to hit? All of these questions and more, are things Ron Roenicke has been trying to answer all season. I’m not mad at Roenicke or discrediting him, but I feel he may be a little too soft sometimes as a manager. What surprised me was his ejection from Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros, but then again, Roenicke isn’t the type to argue and get ejected unless he knows something is wrong. So, clearly, there’s a lot of work that needs done.
At the break, the Brewers sit at 40-45. They are eight games behind in the NL Central and six games behind in the NL Wild Card. With the extra Wild Card spot this year for the playoffs, there is absolutely no reason to lose hope. The Brewers can turn it around and there’s no reason as to say why they couldn’t. The starting pitching is still good, even with two guys who have never started before in the MLB. When Shaun Marcum comes back, I’m hoping Roenicke has enough sense to put Marco Estrada in the bullpen to help stop the bleeding there. As for Michael Fiers, I am perfectly content with his role in the rotation. He’s proven to be a MLB ready pitcher and taking him from that role not only hurts Fiers’ confidence, but is just a bad move overall for the Brewers.
The bullpen, as has been the topic of most discussion, has been surprising to say the least. That isn’t a good “surprising” if you hadn’t already noticed. There’s really not much that can be salvaged from what has been done this season. Every reliever at some point has just looked awful, but some are improving. John Axford just picked up his 15th save of the season yesterday and I know he’s turning it around. June was a very bad month for the Ax-Man, but hey, pitchers go through slumps too. The rest of the bullpen has been frustrating. Tim Dillard and Manny Parra may be the two most frustrating pitchers to watch the in bullpen. Why? Because they’ve been in Milwaukee before and still haven’t grasped the concept of relief pitching. Jose Veras isn’t exactly an exception to this, but 2012 is his first year with the Brewers. Why is the bullpen so bad? I couldn’t tell you. Though, if Axford is turning it around, maybe that’ll be the boost they all need to get it into gear.
Starting wise, we have to start thinking of how life will be without Greinke, if that ever happens. I’m not saying we’re going to lose him before July 31, but trying to resign him in the off-season will be quite a stretch. The Brewers already have to pay Braun, Rickie Weeks, Aoki and Corey Hart so trying to keep Greinke becomes that much harder. It’s a battle of whether or not you trade him. If the Brewers do trade him, they’ll get some prospects. If they don’t, he’ll more than likely be a type-A free agent after the season and the Brewers will get draft picks. If Doug Melvin knows we won’t be able to keep him after this season, let’s try and use what we can out of him to try and turn this season around. Marcum is another question on Melvin’s plate, but I think retaining Marcum will be easier than Greinke.
Here’s my speculated rotation without Greinke next year:
Really, Fiers and Narveson can switch places, but for now, I’m going with this. If we are unable to keep both Marcum and Greinke, just move everyone up one and Estrada is now your fifth man. The Brewers could even flirt with the idea of bringing Tyler Thornburg back, but we’ll see where that goes.
The offense had started off rough and ended up better than we thought so far. We weren’t exactly sure of the production Mat Gamel would give us at first base. Before his injury, Gamel didn’t do too awful bad, considering May 1st (and obviously that’s still early in the season) was his last game before he tore his ACL. At that point, he was batting .246 with one home run and six RBIs. The big story offensively has been Ryan Braun. Braun has been reaffirming his MVP title all season and his production this year is identical to last year. On the year, Braun is batting .306 with 24 home runs, 61 RBIs and 56 runs scored. He’s been a huge reason as to why the Brewers have stayed somewhat afloat. In the past month, Aramis Ramirez has really stepped his game up and Norichika Aoki looks like he was worth the money coming over from Japan.
Guys like Cody Ransom, Cesar Izturis and Weeks, 2012 has just been one giant slump. Alex Gonzalez’s torn ACL severely put a damper on the shortstop position. Izturis was thought of as the main candidate for the job, but really, he’s actually doing worse. Izturis on the year is batting .212 with one home run and eight RBIs. What is really sad about that is that Gonzalez has played in twice the amount of games that Gamel did this year, and is doing worse. Ransom on the other hand, has a more productive bat, but the contact is still missing. Ransom is batting .214 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs. I think for the rest of the season at least, Roenicke has to make Ransom the starting shortstop.
For Weeks at second base, it’s been a battle. Weeks is batting .199 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. The fact that Weeks is an everyday player and puts up such abysmal stats is mind blowing. Weeks has played in 81 games and really, the only thing he has over Ransom (who has played in 54 games this season) is that he has one more home run and a .001 higher OBP at .314 (Ransom’s is .313). Weeks better start playing a heck of a lot better to earn that huge paycheck.
The season is not shot by any stretch of the imagination. The Brewers have kicked themselves down multiple times, but they still rebound. Yes, we sit five games below .500. Yes, we’re in the 4th in the NL Central. However, with that extra Wild Card spot, that shows us that we are not dead in the water. Pitching efforts from Fiers and Greinke have added an extra spark to our rotation, a spark that was definitely needed. Ramirez, Hart and Aoki are helping Braun with the offense so there’s two-thirds of the team clicking. If the bullpen can turn it around then there’s no reason as to why we cannot at least obtain that extra spot. Don’t lose hope now Milwaukee faithful. There’s a whole second half of baseball to be played. Until next time, go Brew Crew!